Boston Celtics: Chicago Bulls

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 94, Celtics 82

January, 2, 2014

Rapid Reaction after the Chicago Bulls defeated the Boston Celtics 94-82 on Thursday night at the United Center:

Joakim Noah flirted with a triple-double (17 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) while leading six Bulls players in double figures for scoring, including Mike Dunleavy (12 points), who provided a little second-half jolt as Chicago pulled away. Jordan Crawford scored a game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting with seven assists (negated a bit by a game-high five turnovers) to lead Boston. Hustle-happy Kris Humphries put up nine points and 11 rebounds in another solid effort off the bench, while a gloved Jared Sullinger chipped in 11 points and 11 rebounds despite the lingering injury on his left hand that's clearly hindering him. Boston turned the ball over 20 times (for 19 points), while the Bulls -- the team with the worst turnover rate in the league -- gave it up just 13 times (albeit for 21 points).

The Celtics were within a point early in the third quarter, but the game got away quickly. The Bulls embarked on an 11-2 run over a four-minute stretch, Luol Deng (14 points) providing the first six points and Noah adding the last five, including a layup that capped the spurt and had the Bulls out front 61-51 with 6:15 to play in the frame. The Celtics made a couple charges, but never got closer than four despite opportunities. Chicago pushed its lead to eight before the end of the third and the lead soared as high as 19 in the final frame.

Sullinger picked up his third flagrant foul 1 of the season for a hard takedown of Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter. Players receive one point for each flagrant 1 (and two points for a flagrant 2) and one-game suspensions start after five accrued points. Sullinger isn't in the danger zone yet, but it could be an issue down the road.

Rookie center Vitor Faverani, who had not played in Boston's previous two games, played nine minutes. He had four points and a rebound, but his night was highlighted by a little steal/fastbreak dunk combo. Alas, Faverani was minus-13 overall in plus/minus. ... Coming off a career night in Tuesday's loss to the Hawks, Kelly Olynyk struggled early on defense and played only 7:41. He finished with three points and a rebound. ... The Celtics actually won the battle on the glass, 48-41 overall. ... Keith Bogans was a healthy DNP. ... The officiating in this game? Woof (and both sides would probably agree with that).

Boston (13-19) has lost five of its last six. The Celtics must battle Winter Storm Hercules while trying to get back to Boston in advance of Friday's visit from the New Orleans Pelicans. No need for the players to fire up their snowblowers, though, as the Celtics head right back out on the road for a five-game road trip with stops in Oklahoma City, Denver, Los Angeles (Clippers), Golden State, and Portland.

W2W4: C's vs. Bulls (Game 32 of 82)

January, 2, 2014
The Boston Celtics (13-18, 5-9 away) visit the Chicago Bulls (12-18, 7-7 home) on Thursday night at the United Center (8 p.m., CS). Here's what to watch for:

  • FEEL YOUR PAIN: The Bulls and Celtics share a lot in common (and not just injured point guards). Chicago ranks 29th in the league in offensive rating (96 points per 100 possessions) which has hindered the team despite owning the NBA's fifth best defensive rating (98.4). The Bulls are better than Boston on the glass, but lead the NBA in turnover rate. The end result? Two teams that are within a half game of each other with Boston currently occupying the final playoff spot in the East at this early season juncture.

  • MOVING ON: Brandon Bass and Jeff Green got into a little bench dust-up during the third quarter of Tuesday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks. During Wednesday's practice, both players downplayed the squabble and suggested it was just a byproduct of two players trying to help their team play more consistent basketball. Said coach Brad Stevens: "We have good people in this locker room. I have no concerns with guys not being able to move on to the next day." Thursday's visit to Chicago, the start of a daunting stretch with six of the team's next seven games on the road, is Boston's first chance to show they've refocused after the minor flare-up.

  • MAKING IT SECOND NATURE: Boston's bench carried the team on Tuesday with rookie Kelly Olynyk putting up a career-best 21 points and Kris Humphries chipping in a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds). The key for Boston is getting its starters back on track without stemming the progress of a surging bench. Stevens showed a lot of faith riding his reserves down the stretch on Tuesday and is hoping that pays off with more consistent performances moving forward.

  • WHAT ELSE? This is the first of three meetings between the teams this season. ... The Bulls recently got leading scorer Luol Deng back after a five-game absence due to an Achilles injury. ... Keep an eye on Jared Sullinger after he aggravated a left-hand injury during Tuesday's loss to Atlanta. While he downplayed his concern about the lingering ailment, Sullinger has clearly been bothered a bit more recently and revealed that he has had a deep bone bruise and sprained ligaments in the hand dating back to a late November game against Charlotte.

(Read full game preview)

C's surprise again in taming Bulls

February, 14, 2013
You Can't Make This Stuff Up. Sounds like a good title for the 2012-13 Celtics season DVD:

Notebook: Terry gets revenge vs. Bulls

February, 14, 2013
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsJason Terry comes up with the big block to help the Celtics emerge with a win on Wednesday.
BOSTON -- For the past three weeks, Jason Terry has not-so quietly stewed over the game-winning jumper that Chicago's Marco Belinelli produced over him during an overtime triumph at TD Garden last month. So when the ball improbably bounced to Belinelli behind the 3-point arc in the final seconds of a two-point game during Wednesday's rematch, Terry's eyes bulged in an 'are-your-serious?!' kind of moment.

Terry swooped in from behind and emphatically blocked Belinelli's shot. Chicago's Taj Gibson got the rebound and put up a desperation triple that fell short as Boston escaped with a not-easy-on-the-eyes 71-69 triumph.

"It was a flashback -- JET's been talking about this game, probably, since the last time we played them," teammate Avery Bradley said. "Every single day he's been saying something about it, and so it's funny that he kind of had a similar situation and got the block at the end of the game. He's been wanting this game so bad. He's been talking about it every single game."

Terry admitted he was furious watching "SportsCenter" the night of Chicago's victory. Belinelli hit a desperation, 14-foot turnaround jumper over Terry to lift the Bulls. Terry couldn't forget it, probably because he couldn't let it go. He even busted out game film to watch multiple times on Wednesday, just to give him a little extra juice on the floor.

"Every experience is a learning one," Terry said. "This time I learned and it worked out."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers laughed as he playfully reaffirmed that Terry is Boston's new defensive stopper, this after the 35-year-old veteran came up with a crucial late-game steal in Sunday's triple-overtime win over the Nuggets. Terry struggles to maintain defensive consistency at an advanced age, but has a knack for coming through in clutch situations.

"For me, it’s just what I hang my hat on. You can say I’m not a great defender or whatever, but I bet on myself in tough, clutch situations with the game on the line, whether it’s offensively or defensively," Terry said. "I’ve been in that situation enough times to know, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win in that situation."

And maybe now he can finally delete the last Celtics-Bulls meeting from his DVR.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Celtics 71, Bulls 69

February, 13, 2013
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesBrandon Bass elevates for a shot Wednesday night against the Bulls.
Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Chicago Bulls 71-69 on Wednesday night at TD Garden:

Brandon Bass produced maybe his best effort of the season, registering 14 points and nine rebounds, while Kevin Garnett added 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Celtics surged in the fourth quarter and held on at the finish line. Jason Terry added 12 points off the bench for Boston, while Paul Pierce overcame 2-of-12 shooting to produce some key fourth-quarter points. Carlos Boozer (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (10 points, 16 rebounds) each produced double-doubles to pace the Bulls.

The Celtics were a dreadful 8-of-39 shooting for a mere 19 points during the middle quarters and found themselves down seven (which felt more like 70) with 10:35 to play in the fourth quarter. Ignited by a Bass steal/dunk combo, Boston improbably caught fire and embarked on a defense-fueled 12-0 run to surge ahead. Jeff Green punctuated the outburst by blowing past Luol Deng and delivering a one-handed slam on the opposite side of the rim as Boozer was too slow with help. Boston led 59-54 with 5:17 to play. Boston made enough shots down the stretch (Bass feeding Garnett for a final-minute hoop as the shot clock expired was a highlight) and Pierce hit two clutch freebies with 10 ticks to go to help seal it.

With the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead in the final seconds, Boston elected to foul. Nate Robinson made the first of two freebies, then missed the second and Chicago go the rebound. Jason Terry blocked Marco Belinelli's initial 3-point attempt, but Taj Gibson got off a clean look that could have won it, but it was off the mark.

The Celtics and Bulls set the game of basketball back decades with their third-quarter play. The teams combined for 21 points (21!?) on 10-of-42 shooting (23.8 percent). Robinson and Deng were the only players with multiple field goals (two apiece). Just an atrocious 12 minutes of basketball that had the Bulls on top 49-43 headed to the fourth quarter.

Avery Bradley picked up two fouls over the first 84 seconds of the third quarter and spent much of the frame on the bench. Given that Boston was down to three available pure guards, it forced Boston to go big with Green for much of the quarter... The Celtics forced 21 turnovers in the last meeting, but generated a mere seven points off of them while falling in overtime. This time around, the Bulls turned the ball over 22 times leading to 20 points. Boston coughed up it a mere 12 times for 11 points.

The Celtics wrapped up the first half of the season at 28-24, winning eight of their last nine (and 14 of 21) to mask a roller-coaster start to the season. Even after enduring three season-ending injuries over the last three weeks, there's optimism about the team with 30 games to go coming out of the All-Star break. Boston players will get five days to rest before reconvening in Denver to start a five-game West Coast road trip.

Pregame: C's patient with roster

February, 13, 2013
BOSTON -- A few quick hits before the Boston Celtics host the Chicago Bulls to wrap up the first half of the season at TD Garden:

* JUST A LITTLE PATIENCE: Coach Doc Rivers, his team whittled to 10 available players due to injuries, said Boston won't rush to fill out the roster. "[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and I, over the last 48 hours, have probably covered every human being that’s breathing and can dribble and shoot. We’re just going to take our time. At the end of the day, that’s basically what we came to. We don’t want to rush into anything. We don’t have a lot of flexibility cap-wise, so we’re just going to wait. And if someone shakes lose or you can get someone, we will. But until then, we’re stretched at the guard spot."

* LOOKING FOR BEST AVAILABLE OPTION: Rivers later stressed that the Celtics are not focused on position, they simply want the player(s) with the best chance to crack the rotation and help this team achieve its lofty goals. "One of the things I told Danny, at the end of the day, for us, let’s not look at a position anymore. That’s something we were doing. From now on, with all the injuries, whoever is out there who we think is the best player, no matter what position, we’ll just get him and figure out how to use him. Even if it’s another [small forward], where we don’t need one, we’ll just move it around and play three 3s if we have to. I would rather have the best player [rather] than a positional player."

* A BIG GAME BEFORE A BIG BREAK: The Celtics are 7-1 since losing Rajon Rondo (with Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa injured during that stretch), but Rivers doesn't want to go into the five-day All-Star break on a two-game losing streak, which adds importance to Wednesday's visit from the Bulls. "We’re going on a hard trip," said Rivers. "We’re going on a five-game West Coast trip after this game, so it’s a big game. But it is for them as well. We’re going to put what we can into it. I have some guys banged-up besides the [out-for-the-season guys], and some of them are key guys. It's just going to be, minute-wise, we’re going to have some guys on restrictions in this game that are key. That’s just the way it is." Rivers wouldn't reveal those dinged-up players, but said the box score would give it away.

* NO CHANGES TO STARTING LINEUP: The Celtics will maintain their starting lineup, but Rivers did note that we'll see more of the Paul Pierce-Jeff Green pairing at the 2 and 3 position. "We have no choice," said Rivers. "I don’t care who you call the 2, either Paul or Jeff, but they have to play together, every game now until we get another guard."

W2W4: Celtics vs. Bulls (Game 52 of 82)

February, 13, 2013
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Garnett gets up a little hook shot over Joakim Noah.
The Boston Celtics (27-24, 19-9 home) host the Chicago Bulls (30-21, 15-9 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

* REVENGE ON THEIR MINDS?: Three weeks back, the Celtics let a very winnable game slip away as the Bulls emerged with a 100-99 overtime triumph that sent Boston spinning through a six-game losing streak (culminating two nights later with Doc Rivers threatening changes after a lopsided loss in Detroit). A LOT has changed for Boston since then, including three-season ending injuries to key rotation players, but Wednesday's game is a decent measuring stick for where a depleted Boston squad stands with a chief Eastern Conference rival with the All-Star break and -- maybe more importantly -- the Feb. 21 trade deadline looming.

* LOOKING FOR HEALTHY BODIES: Celtics-Bulls doesn't have the same shine with both All-Star point guards out with ACL tears. Both teams are missing key backups for those stars as well (Kirk Hinrich is out for Chicago; Boston lost Leandro Barbosa to his own ACL tear on Monday). For the Bulls, Joakim Noah is battling plantar fasciitis that has limited his effectiveness. Chicago has lost four of its last six with Noah noting after a loss to the Spurs earlier this week, "We're not playing good basketball right now."

* STAT SNAPSHOT: Everyone knows the story with the Bulls: They play terrific team defense (fourth in the NBA in defensive rating) and they attack the glass relentlessly (third in offensive rebound percentage; fifth in total rebound percentage). The Bulls do have a propensity to get sloppy with the ball -- no surprise missing both Rose and Hinrich at the moment and leaning on the likes of old friend Nate Robinson -- and Boston absolutely must capitalize. In last month's loss, Boston turned 21 turnovers into a mere seven points. That's completely unacceptable. Chicago will look to muddy up the game, eat up the clock on offense, and force a depleted Boston offense to work for its points. Don't expect a particularly pretty game and both sides will have to work extra hard for clean looks.

* WHO WILL STEP UP?: The Celtics are down to 10 healthy bodies at the moment, and that includes rookie Fab Melo as he shuttles between the D-League while providing emergency frontcourt depth. Boston has only three healthy guards on its roster -- Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, and Jason Terry -- so expect some interesting lineup combinations where the Celtics might be forced to go big simply given that seven of its 10 available bodies are 6-foot-7 or taller.

Caught in a trap

January, 19, 2013
Critical mistakes helped the Bulls beat the Celtics in overtime on Friday:

Breakdown: C's left tied up by Bulls

January, 18, 2013
ESPN Broadcast ScreenshotPaul Pierce gets tied up for a critical late-game jump ball.
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics were left kicking themselves after Friday's overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls. Yes, the visitors stepped up and made big shots at critical moments, but Boston gave them the opportunities by failing to slam the door.

No play will be scrutinized more than the jump ball the Bulls generated in the final seconds of regulation. Here's how it played out:

The Celtics were up 88-86 with 12.1 seconds to play in the fourth quarter and were inbounding near the Bulls' bench after a timeout. Rajon Rondo, one of the team's poorer free throw shooters, was the inbounder with Chicago's Joakim Noah defending (his length helped take away some potential passing lanes). The Bulls essentially doubled Kevin Garnett at the free throw line, forcing Rondo to pick between Jason Terry streaking into the backcourt or Paul Pierce coming over from the wing.

With Marquis Teague cheating a few steps toward halfcourt -- and Noah alertly shuffling to his left to force the action to the sideline -- Rondo made what seemed like a safer pass to Pierce. Instead, Pierce was immediately trapped by Jimmy Butler and Noah, who shuffled a couple of steps over from defending the inbounds to force a jump ball with 9.4 seconds to play.

You can make a case that Pierce was fouled, but the referees let them fight for the ball and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau emphatically pumped his fist when the jump ball was signaled.

“I think it could have went either way," Pierce said. "I thought I was fouled on that. I came out with a busted lip, but the ref didn’t see it that way. It was definitely a huge play of the game. We went out and we got the lead, all we had to do was just get the ball in, maybe get a better position where we could get fouled. Then we wouldn’t be talking about the loss tonight.”

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 100, Celtics 99 (OT)

January, 18, 2013
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBoston's Rajon Rondo drives to the basket during Friday's visit from the Bulls.
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Chicago Bulls defeated the Boston Celtics 100-99 in overtime on Friday night at TD Garden:

Marco Belinelli hit a desperation, 14-foot turnaround jumper with 3.1 seconds to play in overtime as the Celtics absorbed a stomach punch after fighting valiantly all night. In regulation, Rajon Rondo went into national-TV mode while scoring a season-high 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting with seven assists, two steals and two rebounds over 42 minutes before fouling out with 1:16 remaining in overtime. Jason Terry hit a couple of monster shots in overtime, including a go-ahead 16-footer with 12 seconds to play, but Belinelli spoiled it all. Richard Hamilton scored a team-high 20 points for the Bulls, who got monster double-doubles from Carlos Boozer (19 points, 20 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (14 points, 13 rebounds). Kevin Garnett registered 16 points and seven rebounds, while Paul Pierce added 13 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Trailing the entire game -- and by as much as 10 -- the Celtics jumped on Rondo's back and forced a 74-74 tie after his finger roll with 7:03 to play. Boston finally surged ahead with a Rondo free throw with 4:37 to go, but it was a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way. Rondo worked a little elbow pick-and-roll with Garnett, and when Kirk Hinrich went under the screen, he splashed a 20-foot jumper for his 30th point and an 86-84 lead with 36.6 seconds to play. It should have been enough...

Boozer and Hinrich both missed the front end of two free throws, and the Celtics had a chance to salt the game away with a two-point lead and possession with 12 ticks to go. Instead, Rondo made a terrible decision to inbound the ball to Pierce on the sideline. He was immediately trapped, forcing a jump ball situation with Joakim Noah. The Bulls won the tip, hustled the other way and Hinrich hit a gutsy 15-foot jumper after scooping up a loose ball with two seconds to play. Boston couldn't generate a quality look and settled for an off-balance, off-target heave from Garnett at the end of regulation.

The Bulls were down two with less than two minutes to go in the extra session, when Jimmy Butler converted an alley-oop feed from Noah, then added two freebies after drawing the loose-ball foul on Rondo that ended his night. The Celtics hung around and got possession with 20.6 seconds to go, down a point. Terry splashed his 16-footer, but it only set up Belinelli's heroics off a mad scramble to simply get up a shot as Boston's defense swarmed Chicago.

With Avery Bradley sidelined with a rib injury, Leandro Barbosa drew his second start of the season. He picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, limiting his floor time, but he finished with five points on 2-of-6 shooting with three rebounds and an assist over 14:44.

It was one of the toughest losses the Celtics have absorbed this season. Boston fought throughout regulation and had the game pretty well in hand before Noah generated the late-game jump ball. The Celtics' defense had the Bulls bottled up on their final possession, but Belinelli willed in the tough jumper. The Celtics went 3-2 on a five-game homestand and now head out for a brief two-game trip with stops in Detroit (Sunday) and Cleveland (Tuesday) before another national TV battle with the visiting Knicks on Thursday.

W2W4: Celtics vs. Bulls (Game 39 of 82)

January, 18, 2013
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesCeltics point guard Rajon Rondo looks to dish against the Bulls.
The Boston Celtics (20-18, 13-7 home) close out a five-game homestand by hosting the Chicago Bulls (22-15, 11-5 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (ESPN, 7 p.m.) Here's what to watch for:

* ON THE REBOUND: Celtics coach Doc Rivers bottom-lined the key for his team: "Well, we better rebound, because they are a great rebounding team." The Bulls gush size, but what's amazing is that Boston actually owns a better defensive rebound rate -- barely (73.4 to 73.1 percent). The Bulls make up for it with their activity on the offensive glass and rank seventh in the league with an overall rebound rate at 51.8 percent. Rivers said his team won't overreact by throwing Jason Collins into the starting lineup for pure size, so it's on Boston's undersized bigs like Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger to be active on the glass on Friday.

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Bulls' defense remains their calling card as Chicago ranks second in the league while allowing a mere 0.88 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. The Bulls own the best halfcourt defense in the league (0.834 ppp) and are second against spot-up shooting (0.876 ppp). Joakim Noah keys the defense with a team-high 16.4 percent of plays finishing against him (and Noah ranks in the 91st percentile allowing a mere 0.73 points per play). Offensively, the Bulls rank 23rd while scoring 0.891 points per play. Chicago doesn't do anything exceptionally well and five of their top seven rotation players rank between the 51st and 67th percentile, with Chicago's aversion to 3-point shots helping drive down their points-per-play production on an already spotty offensive unit.

* FREAKY FRIDAYS: As our friends at ESPN Stats and Info point out, the Bulls are 5-0 on Fridays this season and are the only undefeated team in the league on that day (the busiest night of the week for NBA squads). The Bulls also had the best record during Friday games last season (8-1) and, dating back to April 2011, the Bulls have won their last 13 road games on Fridays (which Elias Sports Bureau adds is the first team in league history to win 13 consecutive Friday road games). For what it's worth, the Celtics are 4-5 on Friday this season.

* BOOZER WATCH: Carlos Boozer is playing some of his most inspired ball in a Chicago uniform with Stats and Info noting he's averaging 22.6 points and 11.2 rebounds over his last 10 games. That includes a monster 36-point effort against the Raptors on Wednesday. Asked what's changed about the Bulls since the teams met last month in Chicago, Rajon Rondo noted, "Boozer’s starting to come around. He’s playing really well as of late. That’s about it." Read more on Boozer HERE.

Celtics, Bulls stay hungry

January, 18, 2013
The Celtics and Bulls have quietly blended into the Eastern Conference scenery this season. Look past them at your own risk:

Collins starting to contribute

December, 20, 2012
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJason Collins thrived in a starting role on Wednesday night against the Cavaliers.
BOSTON -- Jason Collins got the official word from head coach Doc Rivers about 50 minutes prior to tipoff on Wednesday: He would be starting for the first time as a Boston Celtic.

With the C's mired in a three-game losing streak and in need of yet another rotation shakeup, Rivers turned to the player he's used less than any other this season and Collins delivered by impacting several key areas in Boston's 103-91 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

The basic stats won't jump out of the box score: one point, two rebounds and six fouls in 23 minutes for Collins. But a glance at the plus/minus column painted a more potent picture of Collins' overall impact. Collins registered plus-23 for the game, good for second on the team behind only Paul Pierce, who was plus-29 while scoring a season-high 40 points.

There was no highlight dunk for Collins, no stellar block or nifty steal along the baseline; he didn't gobble up every missed shot or ignite a scoring run for Boston. But he did set hard screens for his teammates, make the proper rotations on the defensive end, look to both take charges and challenge Cleveland's looks around the basket, and, above all else, bring some professionalism and toughness to a team that needed a sense of accountability.

As a testament to all that Collins did for his team, Pierce hand-delivered him the game ball afterward.

“Well, Jason really fills up the lane and he’s not afraid to take charges," said Pierce. "Another big body to come out on people who likes fouls, he takes charges. He throws his weight around. That’s something that we need sometimes. Guys who go out there, put in that type of grit, that defense that we need. He was able to do that. He was able to show exactly, by example, what we need out there at different times. That’s exactly what we needed tonight, some toughness."

(Read full post)

Slumping C's searching for shake-up

December, 19, 2012
A disastrous road trip featuring three double-digit losses in five nights ended with the Celtics getting trampled by the Bulls Tuesday night in Chicago. Now the question is how long Boston can stay its course before making at least minor changes to his lineups and rotation:

Doc's Take: 'Not a good team right now'

December, 18, 2012
Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't sugarcoat anything following his team falling 100-89 to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night for its third consecutive loss, noting afterward that Boston is "not a good team right now."

The Bulls scored 48 of their 100 points in the paint, won the rebounding battle 43-35, and registered 16 second-chance points, further stunting any signs of progress Boston had made in recent weeks.

"I just thought we had a team that played with more energy, played harder, got into us," Rivers told reporters in Chicago. "I thought their intensity was higher. I thought we came out in the first quarter, beginning of the game, and competed. We didn't sustain it. When we subbed out, they got that stretch, and we never recovered.

"We had a chance in the second half, I think it was seven minutes left, I think we cut it to three, and, it's funny, I told my coaches, 'This game's about to go one way or the other.' We took Kevin [Garnett] out again and, bam. So we're going to keep searching. I think we've got the group. We've got to find the right group and the right combination at the right time. But we're going to keep searching. This team is not a good team right now."

Boston didn't plan on getting swept during this three-game road trip. The Celtics entered the stretch hoping to build momentum and put together their first legitimate winning streak of the season. Instead, they suffered unsightly losses to the Rockets and Spurs on back-to-back nights and ended things with another poor effort on Tuesday (despite two off days before playing a Chicago team on the second night of a back-to-back). Boston dropped to 12-12, and Rivers wasn't about to anoint his team as better than what its record indicates.

"It's who we are right now," Rivers said. "I've been saying that. This is who we are right now. We're a .500 team, and we play like that. Again, we've won two games in a row for the season. Right now we're not a good team. We're going to find it. But we're not right now. We're just going to keep searching for it."

Rivers couldn't help but acknowledge the effectiveness of Chicago center Joakim Noah, who posted his second career triple-double Tuesday, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a little under 37 minutes of floor time.

"Noah's terrific. He's such a great passer and at times without [Derrick] Rose, we really consider him their point guard," Rivers said. "He makes their decisions, he bails them out. I bet 10 times in the first half, it was late clock, he flashes to the ball, makes a play either by scoring or with his passing. He's just an extremely high-IQ basketball player. I've said it for four years now, and it's getting higher and higher."



Jared Sullinger
14.1 2.2 0.7 28.8
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsE. Turner 4.4
StealsM. Smart 1.1
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.7